Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Mad Hatter

Goofy, Charming and oh yes. .  quite Mad! The Mad Hatter!

What else about The Mad Hatter?

The Hatter is a fictional character initially encountered at a tea party in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and later again as "Hatta" in the story's sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. He is popularly referred to as the "Mad Hatter", but is never called by this name in Carroll's book—although the Cheshire Cat does warn Alice that he is mad, and the Hatter's eccentric behaviour supports this. Likewise, the chapter in which he first appears, "A Mad Tea-Party", is often called "The Mad Hatter's Tea Party" (despite the fact that it is actually being held at the March Hare's house).

Although the name "Mad Hatter" was undoubtedly inspired by the phrase "as mad as a hatter", there is some uncertainty as to the origins of this phrase. As mercury was used in the process of curing pelts used in some hats, it was impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hatmaking process. Hatters and mill workers often suffered mercury poisoning as residual mercury vapor caused neurological damage including confused speech and distorted vision; hatmaking was the main trade in Stockport, near where Carroll grew up.

The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at a celebration of hers, she sentenced him to death for "murdering the time," but he escapes decapitation. Out of anger at this attempted "murder", Time (referred to as a "Him") halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterized by switching places on the table at any given time, making (along with the March Hare) somewhat short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away. He appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts' trial, where the Queen appears to recognize him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King also cautions him not to be nervous "or I'll have you executed on the spot."

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